ONLY three PBA coaches have won Coach of the Year awards successively. One was Perry Ronquillo in his successful journey with the Formula Shell Turbo Chargers at the approach of the millennium.
Ronquillo didn't stick for long in PBA coaching as he opted to migrate with his family in the United States. But he left behind a winning legacy in eventually leaving his home country.
He won two championships in four straight PBA Finals, leading to his coronation as the Baby Dalupan Trophy winner in back-to-back fashion in 1998 and 1999.
He reminisced those glorious moments with the Turbo Chargers in his appearance in ClutchPoint podcast of veteran sportswriter Rey Joble.
"It started two years before that in 1995 when Chito Narvasa took over as head coach, and he took me in as an assistant. We formed a team that we foresaw as the kind of team that would win a championship. Unfortunately, Chito left in 1997," said Ronquillo.
"We're able to get things going. The team clicked at the right time, and we became successful," added Ronquillo, having golden moments in the pro league with a team featuring Benjie Paras, Vic Pablo, Gerry Esplana, Chris Jackson, Noy Castillo, Jun Marzan, Jolly Escobar, Jojo Lim, Joel Dualan, Jay Mendoza, Richie Ticzon and Rommel Santos.
In their initial championship run in the 1998 Governors Cup, the team was reinforced by imports John Best and Donald Williams.
"It was a slow progression," said Ronquillo, recalling the team didn't click right away after tweaking the lineup by shipping away old mainstay Ronnie Magsanoc and getting two key acquisitions in Jackson and Esplana.
"When I took over, we had four games left and we had to win four to make the next round but we only got three. In the next conference, we went a few seconds away from making the finals. In the Centennial Cup, we made the (one-game) final where we lost, I think, by two points. Still, it's a step up," Ronquillo further recalled.
"Then, we became competitive. In the (1998) third conference, that was that."
Ronquillo was referring to their 1998 Governors' Cup title run, beating Mobiline in the best-of-five championship showdown.
It was payback time for the Turbo Chargers after they were beaten by the Phone Pals in the one-game final in the brief Centennial Cup that served as a warm-up tourney for the Phl Centennial team then heading for the Bangkok Asian Games.
"It's totally different as we're playing a series; not one game. In one game, anything can happen. In a series, you can make adjustments. And our guys were well motivated. If we're to step up from the previous tourney, we have to win this, and true enough, the guys came through," said Ronquillo whose chargers beat the Phone Pals in a classic stretch-out five-game series.
"Hindi madali because Mobiline had great shooters in Al Solis, Glenn Capacio and Patrick Fran," he added.
But they won it all.
And needless to say, Ronquillo and his Turbo Chargers enjoyed more exhilarating moment as they were able to stretch their reign in the next conference, defying bigger odds to rule the 1999 all-Filipino tourney.
Before those back-to-back championships, Shell had been without a title in the last six years.
"It was a challenge for us. Everybody just meshed, got tired of losing, did their jobs to the utmost level and they were rewarded," said Ronquillo.
For Ronquillo, the reward was precious moments that he cherishes to this day in his US stay.(SB)